AT&T CENTER – “(Marco) Belinelli set a really good screen that created some distance and I just fired and hoped for the best,” said Tim Duncan of his game winning basket in the San Antonio Spurs’ 102-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Before setting that screen, Belinelli (13 points) had done what he’s been doing lately for the Spurs, playing within the system on both ends of the floor and continuing to look like a close to perfect puzzle piece on the Spurs’ bench.
“He’s giving us a lot,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich after the Spurs’ loss on Saturday to the Houston Rockets where Belinelli followed up a 19-point night in Orlando, with an 18-point night against Houston on a back-to-back sequence.
“He’s playing very well and obviously, he feels comfortable in the system,” continued Popovich Saturday. “He’s finding his shots, but he’s also playing good defense. He’s doing an all-around good job.”
Through 18 games in the season, Belinelli is averaging 9.4 points, shooting 52% from the field, and he’s the Spurs’ top 3-point shooter at 56% per game. Belinelli is also contributing with 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and just 1 turnover per game considering he’s playing with a totally new team and system he’s never had experience with before.
“In these last two games, he’s been just incredible,” said Ginobili Saturday of Belneilli’s combined 37 points in two nights over the weekend. “These last two games he’s played within the system, not forcing many shots.”
In looking at the Spurs’ last six games, Belinelli has really found his rhythm and what seems to be like a developing role on the team with his production increasing game-by-game.
In the last six games, Belinelli is averaging 13.3 points, shooting 57% from the field, and has only missed eight 3-pointers in 23 attempts (15-of-23 for 65% shooting).
“I’m impressed,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer of Belinelli. Budenholzer was a long-time assistant coach under Popovich and knows the Spurs’ system quite well. “To do it (fit in) that quickly, his style and his IQ, and the way he plays, it seems like a cliché but he’s a really good fit.”
“Pop is great about integrating guys,” continued Budenholzer of Belinelli. “I think the veterans over there know how to make somebody feel welcome. He’s just a good player in general.”
On the court, the chemistry that is developing between Belinelli and Manu Ginobili can be almost remarkable at times – no looks passes, quick fire passes on cuts to the basket – and Ginobili just seems to know where Belinelli is at all times on the floor and vice-versa.
At a time when both Danny Green (42.7% from three) and Kawhi Leonard (22.7% from three) are struggling to find a consistent rhythm beyond the arc, there has been Belinelli and the Spurs’ bench ready to provide the lack of firepower.
It’s only been 18 games into the season, but through those 18 games, Belinelli is looking more and more like a very quick fit.
What is Popovich’s take on Belinelli becoming acclimated into the system so fast?
“He’s fitting in more quickly than any new player I think we’ve ever had.”